How do the Conservatives make the Clacton by-election more difficult for Douglas Carswell? I hear from two extremely well-placed sources that the selection for the Tory candidate will be an open primary.
Carswell himself bemoaned the demise of this selection method when he announced he was leaving the party to join Ukip, and party sources have been muttering for a few days that the authority of the new Ukip candidate is rather undermined by his decision to shunt the poor, bewildered local Ukip chap, Roger Lord, out of the way. Now sources tell me that the party will revive open primaries for this election to make it more difficult for Carswell.
Whether or not this will have much of a dent on Ukip’s fortunes in Clacton is another matter: Lord Ashcroft’s poll published this afternoon puts Ukip 32 points ahead in Clacton, and there are already mutterings from one camp of Conservative MPs in particular about avoiding the campaign like the plague.
P.S. The candidates for the open primary will be picked by the local association beforehand, so the sincerity of this open primary does rest rather on whether the constituency party is open to being nobbled by CCHQ or not.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.